Doctor talking to patient

CWP News | CWP Admin

Former Portsmouth Worker Instrumental in Obtaining Study for Cancer

June 20, 2017

June 20, 2017

Created with Sketch. CWP Admin

CWP News

In 2011, Lisa Parker, former worker from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, watched in dismay as the levels of her husband, Calvin’s, prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) skyrocketed in three short months.  At just 58 years old, Calvin was diagnosed with an unusually aggressive form of prostate cancer.

“I remember the urologist explain that if an elderly man, someone in his 70s or 80s had elevated PSA results, he wouldn’t worry about it.  The doctor figured that the man may develop prostate cancer but it would be unlikely to result in his death.  He would probably die of something else because of his age,” Lisa related.  “The PSA levels took a big jump in October of 2011 and then doubled in November.” A treatment course was decided upon and the cancer has since been in remission.

Calvin worked at Portsmouth in the security force.  He protected radioactive materials, including highly enriched uranium (HEU).  Everyone associated with the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons facilities know how close the workers become with each other.  They are proud of the work they do on behalf of the United States and are aware of the unique responsibilities and situations involved with the production of weapons and the remediation of the closed facilities.

Because of this close camaraderie, Lisa and Calvin would attend funerals for workers who died.  It was at one funeral that Lisa and Calvin ran into a coworker.  Calvin explained that he developed prostate cancer.  The coworker told them that he knows of other men in the Security Department at Portsmouth who also had developed this particular cancer.

This piqued Lisa’s interest.  At Portsmouth, she was involved with the health and safety programs.  She is familiar with statistics and epidemiological studies.  She decided to send out an informal survey to track the types of diseases the Portsmouth guards developed.

She saw that 25% of the guards who responded to the informal survey developed this aggressive type of prostate cancer. She said, “This is not right.”

She enlisted the help of Dr. David Manuta, a former Portsmouth scientist to develop a path moving forward.  Lisa approached the Ohio University at Athens, OH, School of Public Health to discuss her findings.  Drs. Michele Morrone and Harold Perkins agreed to study this issue.  A grant was obtained and the study was initiated. A few Portsmouth workers have been interviewed.  However, so far there are not enough participants for this study to be scientifically valid without a control group.

“Time is running out,” said Lisa.  “The grant expires in August and the graduate students will be gone.  We need men not only from Portsmouth who developed prostate cancer before the age of 65 but we need a control group of men who worked at DOE facilities who were not guards or material handlers and did not develop prostate cancer.  We also need participants who lived near the facilities.  The initial participation is nothing more than an interview, either in person for the Portsmouth workers or via phone for the control group.”

Lisa added that a study of this type may be able to help with cancer claims under Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.

Anyone who wants to participate in this study should immediately call the CWP Help Center at 1-888-292-7581 for more information.